Cedric: French Documentary Filmmaker
Jenn: Tour Companion Winner
Nancy Roche Watkins Reading Series Coordinator
David Hinton Dean of Watkins
Austin Alexander Student at Watkins
Sean Another Watkins student
Danielle Pafunda Poet
Adam Husband of Danielle Pafunda
ROUTE: New Boston, Texas to Nashville, Tennessee
We have now added two hours to a five or six hour drive because of the pummeling rain storm that caused us to pull off in New Boston. We’re tired, we are cranky but it’s not raining anymore.Instead of rain, we get caught in horrendous traffic. We’re going to be late for my reading at Watkins and instead of calling them to tell them we’ll be late (we still have four more hours to go) I fall asleep and wake up with a fever and a clogged head. When I wake up, we’re still in traffic and decide that yes, now is the time to call, now we’re really going to be late. So I call the contact person, Nancy Roche. When I hang up, I realize there is also a time change, so we’re seriously going to be late, but before I call again, I look at the itinerary which has two days on one page and suddenly I wonder, is my reading tonight, or tomorrow? I call Richard. He looks it up and tells me the reading is tomorrow. This is the best news I have ever heard. I call back to tell them that actually, we are not late, we are early. A day early. We get to the hotel and I see that there is actually no time change. I realize Nancy probably thinks we’re insane. I’m sick and confused and when I go into the hotel gift shop for postcard stamps the woman behind the counter asks me if there is tax on postcard stamps and when I respond, “I really don’t know, I’m not from Texas,” she looks at me hard and says, “Tennessee, Ma’am.” Right. Sorry.
Nancy Roche picks us up and takes us to the Tin Angel. She’s great and fun and although we’re exhausted and sick, we wnat to have enough energy for her and for this and so we suck it up. The food is amazing, I even eat fried green tomatos. Afterwards, we walk around Broad Street, go into the tourist Cowboy, Honky-tonk, Country song bars and then we have to go back to the hotel because we’re dead.
The reading is so crowded I can’t believe it. There are at least 50 people there. It’s insane. It’s thrilling. I don’t read long, but I take lots of questions and talk a bunch in the beginning. A kid asks me what my purpose is and I turn to my right, point to a painting of swastikas, turn to my left, pointed to a photograph of an anus and say, “I suppose my purpose is the same as the drive that led to these. I had something in me that just needed to come out.” Went over pretty well. After the reading there was a LINE, can you believe it? A line of students waiting for me to sign my book. It was amazing, thrilling, spectacular. I think I found my audience.
David takes us out to eat at a restaurant with the most amazing food. It’s too bad I’m not that hungry. I can’t believe how tired we are. Nancy shows up with two of her students, Sean and Austin. Austin is beautiful, a total angel and Jenn and I both agree we’d fight over him if we were at Watkins. We all sit around talking and drinking and then around 10:30pm decide to head over to Spring Water to hear Lamb Chop play. I ride with Nancy and rewrite her query letter to agents in the car (she asks me to do this, I have not volunteered, I’m not a complete asshole). When we get to Spring Water it looks like the band is packing up and we get out of the car to find out we have missed their set entirely. We hang around the bar which is filled with people in their late twenties and thirties, people that look like they’d be our friends if we lived here. We hang around, but Austin can’t get in because he’s underage, so we go find Cedric so we can go elsewhere. Guess what? We can’t find Cedric. Big Surprise. I walk throught the bar once, thoroughly, but don’t see him. Austin and I walk around the perimeter of the bar. I make him go into the men’s bathroom. We each look for him, scour the bar but can’t find him. About twenty minutes later I go back in and look in every nook and there he is sitting on a chair in a corner quietly videotaping the band on stage.
At the next bar, Austin and I engage in a great conversation while the others talk. We drink bloody marys and get all student-y. Nancy is great with her students, she treats them like equals and I envy them. It’s been great here in Tennessee and it was great in Austin, it’s a shame the tour is really taking off the same time it’s ending. This is what we thought it’d be — the chance to hang out with those housing us. At around midnight, Jenn and I go home, kiss goodbye to all and pack it in.
Today is the eleventh anniversary of the death of my step-father. The one I dedicated my book to. I am sad, but don’t feel like announcing it, or telling anyone. I end up telling Jenn later, but for now, I just keep it to myself. We are on our way to Brenau College in Gainseville. We have no idea what to expect.
Soft Skull has given us the wrong address. We are driving around a dental school. We call Brenau and get some semblance of directions and find our way there fifteen minutes late. The crowd is small, and the second I walk in they are asking me questions, “where are you from? Why’d you write a book? what’s your purpose?” I almost would have preferred talking to them over reading. I am so worn out and tired I wonder if I can get through this. I decide not to read a full story, that if I read a full story I will truly kill myself. Or someone else. I stick to excerpts. Halfway through I wonder if I am reading to a bunch of God-Loving Christian girls and worry that I am ruining their lives, destroying their futures as I read about The Alcoholic and all the bad decisions he makes. I ask them halfway through if they’re okay and they nod their heads yes in star topazed dazes.
Afterwards we get back in the car and head out to Athens where we’ll stay with Danielle Pafunda and her husband, Adam. We get to Athens, get hungry, eat at Peking, go to the Grit, where we’re supposed to meet D and A, but they’ve decided not to meet us there and are home, so we go to their house. We get a little lost, but we make it.
They have a dog (maybe even two) and a cat and I am deathly allergic, very very very very cranky and mind-numbingly tired. I think I am probably being a big fat bitch, but I can’t help it, I just need to sleep. I can’t be “on” anymore. I can’t pretend I’m happy when I’m not. I no longer wish to entertain when I have not been asked to. Thank the lord the two of them don’t seem eager to laugh it up, to out funny each other. It’s a nice feeling just being myself and I pull out Alison Smith’s galley for Name All the Animals and read myself to sleep.
Eventually, we end up at X-Ray cafe for the reading. There are tons of people. The reading goes really well and half way through I think, man, I’m going to sell a ton of books tonight, but afterwards, only two people stay to buy books. Everyone literally gets up and leaves immediately after. We end up going to the Flicker for one drink before we drive to Atlanta. I buy everyone a round as a final tour thank you and give Cedric and Jenn their presents. We say goodbye to Adam and Danielle, get back in the car and head to Atlanta.
Twenty minutes on the road Cedric lets out an, “uh oh.” He has forgotten his camera bag with all the tapes at the bar in Athens. We drive back and retrieve it. We are on our way once again to Atlanta. The final destination before NY.
We’re lost. I call Jimmy on the cell phone and he directs us, tells us he’ll get in a car and meet us at the gates in Fayetteville, GA. I hang up and we drive ten more feet and out of nowhere comes Jimmy, RUNNING! towards us. The car barely stops and I jump out and jump on him. I have never been so glad to see him in my life.
His sister’s place is a palace and we’re so tired and it’s 1:00am and we need to get up at 6am to bring Jenn to the airport. We drop off in our respective beds and sleep fitfully, unaccustomed to such luxury (or luxiousness, as Cedric would say).
Back at Jimmy’s sister’s we eat breakfast with his family, all of whom are preparing for Jimmy’s dad’s sixtieth which is that night. I take a nap and then Jimmy and I go to a bookstore so I can buy his dad a present.
The party is large and I am overwhelmed, it’s too much too soon and I can’t go with the flow of it. I have been having strange bouts of crying all day and I run into the bathroom every ten minutes or so to let more cry out. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I think I’m just done. At around 10 the party is raging, but I need to go be alone, I haven’t been alone in a month and a party like this, right now, is too much to process. J drives me back, then goes back to the party and I fall asleep and stay that way for about ten hours.
November 23-26 A blur. Except for the 25th. Melinda (Jimmy’s mom) takes me to her book club meeting and I talk about my book and read a bit, then talk some more and everyone buys one (some buy more than one!) and I feel thrilled. Jimmy picks me up and we head off finally to Brooklyn. It takes us two uneventful days, but we finally make it and here I am now, overwhelmed, confused but finally able to be alone for a bit in my own home. There are lots of Survivor tapes to catch up on and loads of real work to do. After Thanksgiving, I think. After that.